Reconstructing the Shape of the Nose According to the Skull

Miroslav Prokopec
Scientific Advisor
Department of Health and Living Conditions
Institute of Public Health
Prague, Czech Republic

Douglas H. Ubelaker
Department of Anthropology
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC

Paper presented at the 9th Biennial Meeting of the International Association for Craniofacial Identification, FBI, Washington, DC, July 2000.


Facial reproduction has been utilized extensively by both law enforcement and historians, but some authors consider reconstructing the shape of the nose from the skull impossible (Suk 1935). Theoretically there exists a close morphological relationship between the soft parts of the face and the underlying skeleton. Both structures develop and grow together from the embryonic stage. Between the facial muscles and the bony relief of the face, there exists functional and morphological connections. The relationship of the details of the human face to the skull was studied by M.C. Caldwell (1981), T. S. Balueva and G. V. Lebedinskaya (1991), and D. H. Ubelaker and G. O'Donnell (1992). These authors summarized various techniques of facial reconstruction.

The Michail Michailovic Gerasimov Laboratory of Anthropological Reconstruction at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, experimented with the problem of reconstructing the nose shape (Gerasimov 1940). One of the authors, Miroslav Prokopec, was trained by Gerasimov's pupil and successor, Galina Lebedinskaya, in the method developed and used in Gerasimov's laboratory on reconstructing the nose shape on the basis of a skull with the nasal bones and the middle face skeletal part intact.

Materials and Methods

The authors used four well-preserved skulls (two males and two females) from an Old Slavonic cemetery in Rajhrad in southern Moravia, Czech Republic, dating from the ninth century A.D. (Hanáková et al. 1986; Stloukal and Vyhnanek 1976) to perform two-dimensional facial reconstructions and to demonstrate the method of nose shape reconstruction. The individuals were estimated to have been between 30 and 40 years old.

The younger of the two males, skull number 352, was of less than medium stature with a brachycranic skull. His body was found lying on a board; a knife was found with it.
Skull number 453 belonged to the younger of the two females, who was relatively tall and dolichocranic.
The older of the two males, skull number 427 (dolichocranic), was buried with a chisel and a knife.
Skull number 161 (female) was older than the two males, mesocranic, and tall.
Each skull was photographed, and an accurate drawing of each skull from the left profile was taken with a dioptrograph with all details of the facial skeleton and of the brain case (maxilla, os nasale, contour of the eye socket, os zygomaticum, processus zygomaticus, all the sutures). Reconstruction proceeded with the following steps:
A line (A) was drawn through the points nasion and prosthion (Figure 1).

Then a parallel line (B), intersecting the foremost point on the nasal bone, was drawn.
Four to six equidistant parallel lines (C, D, E, F, G, H) were drawn perpendicular to Line B on its section from the inferior tip of the nasal bone to the base of apertura piriformis. Each of these lines cross Line B and have an inner and outer section.
The distance from the rim of apertura piriformis to Line B on Line C (inner section) was measured. The same distance was measured on the outer section of Line C, and its anterior extremity was marked with a dot. This process was repeated for each of the Lines D, E, F, G, and H.

The dots on the outer sections of the Lines C, D, E, F, G, and H were connected with a curve, and the mean thickness of the skin and fat layer at this area (a little more than 2 mm) was added. This gave the most probable contour of the nose of a person whose face was reconstructed.

The thicknesses of the skin and the underlying tissue on the scalp and face used in
Gerasimov' s laboratory are given in Table 1. These are means and standard deviations of measurements of soft parts on 9 places on the skull and face taken in 17 males of various nationalities from the former Soviet Union (8 were Russians).

Table 1. Mean Thickness of the Soft Parts of the Head and Face

Table 1. Mean thickness of the soft parts of the head and face in the mediosagittal plane in 17 males of different nationalities from the former Soviet Union (including 8 Russians) between 23 and 39 years of age. (According to M. M. Gerasimov, 1940).

Dr. Lebedinskaya also described the most probable position of the eyeball and eyelid and the size and angle of the outer ear, the midline between the lips, the position of a mouth corner, and the form of the chin. Hair and beards were added according to the authors' interpretations, presuming that such styles were worn by the Old Slavs in the ninth century.


The four experimental reconstructions are shown in Figures 2 through 5.

Figure 2 shows the younger of the males (skull number 352), a fine-featured man.
Figure 3 presents the younger female (skull number 453) who had alveolar prognathism of the upper jaw. Her upper incisors were probably not fully covered by her upper lip at normal occlusion.

Figure 4 shows the older male (skull number 427). He was evidently a robust man, probably a craftsman, as suggested by a chisel found in his grave.
Figure 5 shows the older female (skull number 161) depicted with a typical hair dress worn in eastern Slovakia and a silver earring, the type found frequently in Rajhrad and other Old Slavonic cemeteries (Stloukal and Vyhnanek 1976).

The physical characteristics presented in the reconstructions may be seen in the present populations throughout the Czech Republic. Note the different shapes of the skulls buried in one Old Slavonic graveyard.


The process of this two-dimensional reconstruction has three phases:

Drawing a profile of the skull in an orthogonal projection (by a dioptrograph) and the soft parts according to instructions.
Adding thicknesses of the soft parts and drawing the outer contour of the nose and the position of the eye and ear.
Adding eyebrows, hair, and beards, and adjusting features corresponding to the estimated age of the person (hairline, wrinkles). The goal is to construct a portrait, summing up all the knowledge about the person and making artistic decisions based on age, probable social status, and/or profession (which may be estimated in some cases according to the position of the grave or artifacts found in the grave).

Four Old Slavonic skulls were used to demonstrate the reconstruction of the shape of the nose according to the skull. Throughout the work on the reconstructions, the authors followed the instructions of Galina Lebedinskaya, the successor of M. M. Gerasimov (Table 1).


Balueva, T. S. and Lebedinskaya, G. V. Anthropological Reconstruction. Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, 1991.

Caldwell, M. C. The relationship of the details of the human face to the skull and its application in forensic anthropology. MA thesis, Arizona State University, 1981.

Gerasimov, M. M. Osnovy Vosstanovleniya Lica po Cherepu. Sovetskaya Nauka, Moskva, 1940.

Hanáková, H., Stana, C., and Stloukal, M. The Great Moravian Cemetery at Rajhrad. National Museum in Prague, Natural History Museum, 1986.

Lebedinskaya, G. V. Sootnoshenia mezhdu verkhnim oddelom litsevovo cherepu i kryvajushchimi evo tkanami. In: Antropologicheskaya Rekonstruktsia I Problemy Paleoetnografii. Izdatelstvo Nauka, Moskva, 1973, pp.38-56.

Prokopec, M. Human face: How it looks and how it looked, Veda a Technika Mladezi (1985) 30(3):18-19.

Prokopec, M. On the reconstruction of facial expression of Old Slavs, Acta Musei Nationalis Pragae, B, Natural Sciences (1987) XLII(2-4):203-205.

Stloukal, M. and Vyhnanek, L. Slavs from Mikulcice in Great Moravia. Academia, Praha, 1976.

Suk, V. Fallacies of Anthropological Identifications and Reconstructions. A Critique Based on Anatomical Dissections. Spisy prir. Fakulty v Brne (1935), c. 207, Brno.

Ubelaker, D. H. and O'Donnell, G. Computer-assisted facial reproduction, Journal of Forensic Sciences (1992) 37(1):155-162.

Forensic Science Communications January 2002 — Volume 4 — Number 1

Research and Technology


реконструкција на 4 скелети од СЛОВЕНИ од 9 век.

Најважно од се е дека четирите скелети се од 3 различни скелетни структури што покажува дека словенството е културен поим и нема врска со расна и антрополошка припадност.

Еден череп е Branhikefalen, два Dolikokefalni и еден Mezokraniк.

Скелетите се од гробницата Rajhrad во Јужна Моравија-Чешка,два се машки и два се женски.